French Group Seeks Freedom for Turk Activist

BORDEAUX–France (Reuters)–A French human rights group launched on Monday a campaign for the release of blind Turkish lawyer and writer Esber Yagmurdereli–imprisoned for almost 17 years for promoting rights in his country.

The Human Rights Institute of the Bordeaux bar awarded its human rights prize to Yagmurdereli and said in a statement his imprisonment violated the European human rights convention.

Yagmurdereli–55–has been in and out of Turkish prisons since 1978. A 1985 death sentence for supporting a subversive movement was downgraded to life imprisonment because of his poor health.

He was also sentenced to a 23-year accrued sentence in June 1998 for "spreading separatist propaganda" in a 1991 speech about Turkey’s Kurdish conflict.

Yagmurdereli refuses to be freed on grounds of poor health–saying he does not want to be made a special case.

The group’s first human rights prize was awarded on 1985 to Nelson Mandela–then in jail.

This prize–awarded every two years–was created in memory of the French lawyer Ludovic Trarieux–who in 1898 during the Dreyfus Affair in France–founded the "French League for the Defense of Human Rights and the Citizen."

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